Day 554: Who Holds The Most Pretend Money?

originally published July 7, 2013

Some lucky soul (or souls) claimed the Lotto Max on Friday night, the Canada-wide lottery that often stretches its jackpot to $50 million. This was one of those big-money draws, and I was denied the prize once again, for the silly inconsequential reason that I didn’t buy a ticket.

Who among us hasn’t imagined how our life would change with the sudden injection of eight pre-decimal figures in our bank account? Every year, Forbes magazine drops its list of the wealthiest humans on the globe, and because I know my name will never grace those pages, it’s with only the mildest of interest that I check to see if the big winner is Warren Buffet, Bill Gates, or some Saudi Arabian prince, floating on a sea of oil.

I don’t wish any of these people ill-will, but they really don’t have a tremendous effect on my life so I just can’t get excited about their appearance on the list. But Forbes also prints another list. These wealthy money-hoarders may not be technically “real”, but some of them are a lot more interesting than the ones who top that other list. These are the Forbes Fictional 15.

As you may have guessed, the Forbes Fictional 15 is a list of the wealthiest fifteen fictional characters, as compiled from numerous sources, including books, movies, cartoons, comics, TV shows, and using the authors’ best guesses as to their respective fiscal value. Forbes started printing this list in 2002, and though they’ve skipped a few years along the way, the list has become a curious cultural touchstone. Folklore and mythological characters are exempt, as are real people that we simply wish were only fictional.

This sounds to me like the Forbes staff looking to blow off some steam and write about something fun after having spent a year focusing on money and stocks and various other dry financial hooey.

Back in 2002 when the list began, Santa Claus was plunked at the top with an estimated net worth of infinity. I suppose that makes sense; such philanthropy could only occur at the hands of someone with nary a single fiscal concern. Richie Rich came in at #2 with an estimated worth of $24.7 billion. He was followed by Daddy Warbucks, Scrooge McDuck and Thurston Howell III. I suppose it was assumed that Thurston outlived the man who played him – Jim Backus left us in 1989.

Also clocking in with over a billion greenbacks were Willie Wonka, Bruce Wayne, Lex Luthor, J.R. Ewing, Auric Goldfinger, C. Montgomery Burns, and Charles Foster Kane. Scraping in with a high hundreds of millions were Cruella de Vil, Gordon Gekko (this was before the second Wall Street film) and Jay Gatsby.

If the 2002 list was meant to be a one-off exercise in comical journalism, by 2005 the Forbes staff was raring to go again. The next list once again had the jolly red gift-giver at the top, but this time Daddy Warbucks climbed the charts, while it seems Richie Rich’s fortune dropped down to a mere $17 billion. Not sure why – maybe Richie invested a little too heavily before the dot-com bubble burst.

Newcomers to the list in 2005 included Arthur Bach, whose wealth had soared up to $2 billion since he stopped drinking and carousing and settled down with Liza Minelli. Also present were Ebenezer Scrooge, Lara Croft and – as the only fictional character on the list with under a billion this year, Lucius Malfoy.

For the 2006 list, a bit of controversy had to be ironed out. It appears that a number of people, including a New York state judge back in the 40’s, are quite certain that Santa Claus exists, which would disqualify him from ‘fictional character’ status. This didn’t land Santa on Forbes’ other list of actual rich people mind you, but instead he was kept off both lists so that the magazine didn’t have to choose sides.

Daddy Warbucks came out on top in ’06, with Springfield’s Monty Burns climbing to #2 as his wealth inexplicably doubled to $16.8 billion in just one year. Jed Clampett, Mr. Monopoly, Tony Stark, Prince Abakaliki of Nigeria (you know, the one we’ve all been helping out with those email money transfers), Tony Montana and Nintendo’s Mario were also added to the list.

In 2007, Scrooge McDuck’s fortune took a leap while Daddy Warbucks fell right off the charts, possibly having been cheated out of his money by a Ponzi scheme orchestrated by one of his adopted daughter’s orphan friends. Scrooge was #1, but Flash Gordon’s Ming The Merciless had a great year, leaping straight from obscurity to #2.

Mom from Futurama climbed onto the charts, as did Quahog’s Carter Pewterschmidt, Fake Steve Jobs (a pseudonym for Forbes writer Daniel Lyons, though his identity wasn’t yet public when this list was published), Gomez Addams, and Princess Peach. Peach presumably snagged a lot of money off Mario in the divorce, since he’s nowhere to be found. This was the first year in which everyone on the list was worth over a billion dollars.

2008 saw Uncle Sam enter the list as Ming the Merciless disappeared entirely. Uncle Sam’s wealth was listed as ‘infinite’, which seems fairly optimistic considering the state of the American economy that year. Gordon Gekko was back near the top (again, before the new movie), and Jabba the Hutt cracked the top five. It’s about time, I say.

The only other new entries on the ’08 list were Adrian “Ozymandias” Veidt from The Watchmen and Artemis Fowl II. As a possible sign that the economy was showing a bit of strain, the three names at the bottom of the list were once again under a billion. This included Mr. Burns, who lost a bundle when that Little Lisa Slurry investment went south.

Forbes decided that the state of the economy in 2009 might not allow for the publication of a light-hearted list like this, so we fast-forward to 2010 when Carlisle Cullen topped the list. I purposely know almost nothing about the Twilight universe, so I’ll just let this go without comment.

The Tooth Fairy made the list in 2010 (a good year for enamel futures), as did Sir Topham Hatt, owner and enslaver of Thomas the Tank Engine and his friends. Charles Bass from Gossip Girl was #13, and Lucille Bluth landed at an optimistic #15, as clearly Forbes writers were just as hopeful as the rest of us for that fourth season. Of course, when the fourth season did finally show us Lucille’s journey since Arrested Development went off the air in 2006, we learn that Forbes was a little off in their estimation of her $950 million net worth.

2011 found perennial favorite Scrooge McDuck back on top, with only a handful of new names: Smaug the dragon, Jo Bennett (owner of Sabre, which purchased Dunder-Mifflin the year before – if you have no idea what I’m talking about, don’t feel bad, that TV show is done anyway), and Jeffrey “The Big” Lebowski.

Lastly we have the 2012 list, compiled in April of last year, which suggests that 2013 may be another forsaken list-less year. Smaug, who may have been cashing in his life-rights check for his movie representation in The Hobbit last Christmas, lands on top with a stunning $62 billion under his belt. Or under his belly, I suppose.

Flintheart Glomgold must have swiped a bundle from his archnemesis Scrooge McDuck, because he sits at #2 and Scrooge is absent from the list. Charles Foster Kane makes his first appearance on the list since 2002, and Forrest Gump lands in between Batman and Mr. Monopoly at #9. Lisbeth Salander – and her very appearance on this list is a bit of a spoiler – finds herself at #11, followed by Tywin Lannister. Robert Crawley from Downton Abbey is the other new name.

I’m hoping Forbes is still planning on a list this year – this is a fun way to measure one’s own status in the financial world, without having to feel too rotten about how far down one may be. Perhaps if I was a duck I’d have a better chance of showing up in Forbes. Something to work towards, anyway.

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